Tamara Ketabgian

in Victorian Literature

ISBN: 9780199799558
Published online March 2011 | | DOI:

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The Victorian era was a remarkably fertile period for the adoption, expansion, and transformation of technology. Photography, telegraphy, telephony, steamships, railways, electric lighting, and industrial control engineering are only a few of the many complex systems and processes developed during the era. While this technical ferment defies easy classification, historians have traditionally placed it in the overlap between the first and second Industrial Revolutions, defined respectively by the growth of steam power in the late 18th century and by emerging electrical and communications technology in the later 19th century. In recent decades, however, many critics have proposed multiple histories of Victorian technology that challenge triumphalist accounts of inevitable progress and modernization. These new approaches focus on forgotten innovations and on different models of cultural influence and transformation, based on reciprocal relations among science, technology, art, literature, and popular discourse. Moreover, the current Information Revolution has also prompted renewed attention to 19th-century media and information technology, sometimes through postmodern fantasies of alternate (or “neo-Victorian”) history. As these new approaches show, technology inspired and provoked Victorians both as a material reality and as a literary and cultural symbol. It provided artists and writers with absorbing models for narrative form, visual perception, human relations, spirituality, and scientific objectivity. At the same time, it fuelled energetic debate surrounding its role in culture, labor, aesthetics, labor, psychology, sexuality, and the natural world. This entry concentrates on technology in both Victorian literature and history, as a form of scientific practice supported through mechanical and artifactual systems, processes, and relations. Major forms of technology treated here include industrial, transport, engineering, electric, communication, visual, sound, military, medical, agricultural, and information, although considerable overlap exists among these categories.

Article.  19437 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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